An unreliable witness
In August of 1877, two young men were seen herding supposedly stolen horses across the Oxley flats, northwards to the Murray River. The two young men were identified by the witness as looking like Daniel Kelly and John Lloyd. The sighting was reported to the Chiltern Police, and eight months later, on the 5th of April 1878, a warrant was made out for the arrest of both parties on a charge of horse stealing. On the 15th of April 1878, Mounted Constable Alexander Wilson Fitzpatrick, on his way to temporarily take charge of the Greta Police station, stopped off at the home of Daniel Kelly on the 11 Mile Creek, to arrest him over the horse stealing charge of the previous August. Daniel Kelly had just returned from out riding all day and was about to have his dinner when approached by Constable Fitzpatrick. The Police officer was asked to wait while he had his dinner and allowed to enter the Kelly home. Mrs. Kelly, Dan’s mother, wasn’t at all happy with the prospect of her son being taken away and made it quite clear to the officer. Before long, and for whatever reasons, a scuffle broke out between Daniel and Constable Fitzpatrick, Mrs Kelly had hit him on the head, denting his police helmet, Ned Kelly came rushing through the door and fired three shots at the police officer, hitting him in the wrist and trying to kill him. Another man, William Williamson, appeared from the bedroom holding a revolver, and the police officer passed out on the floor from his injury. The lead ball was cut out of the police officer’s wrist, bandaged, and later that evening sent on his way and told not to mention what had taken place.
In the early hours of morning on the 16th of April 1878, Constable Fitzpatrick reported the attempted murder charge to his superior officer in Benalla, Sgt.Whelan, and warrants were soon issued for the arrest of Ned Kelly, Daniel Kelly, their mother Ellen Kelly, William Williamson, and William Skillion, but before the warrants could be served, Ned Kelly and Daniel Kelly had simply disappeared. Six months later three Police officers are shot dead in the Wombat Ranges, two banks are held up and robbed, and a siege takes place in Glenrowan that would cause death, injury, and destruction to many. Ned Kelly would be captured and later hanged on November 11th 1880.
Now this seems to look like a straight forward story, but all stories have to have a beginning, and every action thereafter, a reaction. The beginning was the sighting of two young boys supposedly with stolen horses. The action is the testimony given by Alexander Fitzpatrick at what took place in the Kelly home on the 15th April 1878, and the reaction was of course, the ‘Kelly Outbreak’. Now if we go back to the beginning over the horse stealing charge against Dan Kelly and John Lloyd, we find that John Lloyd later appeared in court over this charge and was found to be … NOT GUILTY! The witness to this crime was obviously wrong in his identification of the riders, and Daniel Kelly, if given the chance to appear in court, would probably have also been found … NOT GUILTY! The witness to the horse stealing charge would be classified as an “unreliable witness’’ The only reason Daniel did not get the opportunity to appear in court on this charge was the actions of Constable Fitzpatrick at the Kelly home, and the testimony of events he gave to his superior officer.
Was Alexander Fitzpatrick an unreliable witness or just an outright liar? From what I have read of his character of late, and his testimony of events, I am swayed to the latter. I have already written my thoughts on this incident in Keep Ya Powder Dry‘s The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy but there is more to the character of Fitzpatrick now coming to light.
At the Flemington Court yesterday, before Messrs Davis Swan
Tuesday, 28 August 1883 (page 10)
Wilson, Puckle, Parsons, and Beliair, ex-constable Fitzpatrlck, of “Kelly gang” notoriety, was charged with making use of obscene language and smashing a window in the Lincolnshire Arms, at Essendon on the 17th of June last. From the evidence it appears that the defendant and another entered the hotel and had drinks for which they refused to pay; they then made use of obscene language, and the defendant smashed a window. The Bench inflicted fines amounting to 27s 6d , with 3s 6d damages cost of window.
Arrested and remanded
Tuesday, 26 June 1894 (page 1)
INTERCOLONIAL NEWS [BY TELEGRAPH]
Melbourne, Monday Afternoon.
Alexander Fitzpatrick, who was shot in the wrist by Ned Kelly, the bush- ranger, some years ago, has been arrested for false pretences. He appeared at the City Court to-day and was remanded.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate
Thursday, 28 June 1894 (page 6)
Alexander Fitzpatrick stands charged in Melbourne with obtaining money by false pretences. This name will be familiar to many through the story of the Kelly gang. This man was a mounted constable in the Victorian police, and in 1878 he was stationed at Benalla in the north eastern district. He was sent to execute a warrant for the arrest of Ned Kelly for horsestealing. He rode up to the residence of the subsequently notorious bushranger, where he found his sister, Kate Kelly, in the house with her mother, Mrs. Kelly. Fitzpatrick heard the ring of the axes in the ranges, where Ned Kelly his brother-in-law Skillion were chopping wood. He went to arrest Ned a fight ensued, and Ned Kelly shot him in the wrist with a revolver. Mrs. Kelly and Skillion also set upon him. Ned Kelly afterwards extracted the bullet from Fitzpatrick with a pen knife. Then he went away with his brother Dan and Byrne and Hart to the Wombat Ranges, where they entered upon their bushranging career. That was the beginning of the Kelly Gang. The end of it everyone knows. Fitzpatrick, who is now lying under the charge of obtaining money by false pretences, is the mounted constable who was shot by Ned Kelly.
Monday, 9 July 1894 (page 2)
12850. Then it was your intention, with the knowledge of your officer, to arrest Dan Kelly on your way to Greta that morning?—Yes.
12863. You said that Williamson and Skillian had revolvers — how do you know they were revolvers?—I could swear it.
12864. You have sworn it?—Yes.
12866. How long before that had you seen Williamson chopping wood?—Fifteen minutes.
12867. Had he a revolver then?—No, I did not see one.
12868. How did he get into the house before you did?—I do not know.
12869. Were there two doors?—There was only the entrance.
12870. How did he get in before you and Dan Kelly?—He may have removed a sheet of bark at the back and come in. I did not see him come in. (Fitzpatrick did not realise that was impossible. The walls of the house are made of slabs, not bark! – AC)
12877. You said if Williamson got into the house he might have got through by removing a sheet of bark. Was the house bark or slabs?—Bark and slabs.
12878. Where was the bark, on the side or on the roof?—There was a bark partition. How I know that is that the first shot fired at me grazed the bark behind my back, and lodged in it. I cannot say whether the outside walls were of bark.
12885. You give that as one of the reasons for the outbreak?—Had it not been for this case of Baumgarten’s horse stealing, horses stolen from persons close to Greta; and information was received by Sergeant Steele and several other constables that there was a warrant issued for the arrest of Ned Kelly. Sergeant Lynch, stationed at Chiltern, obtained some evidence that there were two men seen driving those horses; he thought they answered the description of Jack Lloyd and Dan Kelly, and a warrant was issued for Dan Kelly and Jack Lloyd, which I went to execute.
12886. At the time you went to Mrs. Kelly’s hut?—Yes. Shortly after the outrage was committed on me Jack Lloyd was arrested and was discharged.
12887. What had that to do with the outbreak?—You see this warrant was issued—this was the ground of the warrant being issued—
12895. How long were you in the police force?—Over three years.
12896. Did you plead guilty to charges of misconduct during that time?—I did, foolishly.
12897. How often?—I could not tell you how many times, but they were very trifling offences. I was charged with merely laughing in the depôt—the hospital—after the lights were put out. I was fined five shillings. Then Mr. Hare said, “I will keep you in my district.” I was in the hospital then with my leg severely injured.
12898. Did you plead guilty to neglect of duty during the three years?—Yes, for missing the train once or twice in Sydney.
12899. Are you aware that the Inspector-General of Sydney wrote to complain of your misconduct in Sydney?—Yes.
12900. Were you charged with being in a house at unlawful hours when you had no business there?—That was in Lancefield. The charge was not proved.
12901. Were you charged with being at night on the premises of Morris Casey?—Yes.
12902. And causing trouble and annoyance to his family?—That was preferred against me, but I pleaded “not guilty,” and there was no finding at all.
12903. Those are all the charges during the three years?—Yes; there were a lot of charges brought against me, but they really amounted to nothing. Superintendent Hare said he would keep me in his district, and put me under a hard man that would watch me night and day. He accordingly sent me to Lancefield, and the first charge against me there was neglect of duty at Lancefield, being reported by Senior-Constable Mayes.
12904. What was Senior-Constable Mayes’s charge against you?—For neglect of duty.
12905. And what else?—I am speaking of this one charge at present.
Did you say the constable at Lancefield, Constable Mayes, charged you with keeping company with undesirable characters?—So Captain Standish told me.
12909. Did he tell you the Chief Commissioner of Police in Sydney charged you with associating with improper characters?—No, he did not tell me that.
12911. How long were you in Lancefield?—Nine months. In connection with this Kelly affair, through my being mixed up with them, it has damaged my character greatly, and gained me a great many enemies in the working class whom I have had to mix up with on the Lancefield line and other places. When I went to Mr. Robb first “they swore vengeance on Fitzpatrick”—that he was the prior cause of driving the Kellys out. Many did not believe my statement a single word.
12915. Were you never told in Sydney, by any officer of police there, that they complained of your conduct?—I was.
12916. Who told you?—Inspector Mager, I think. He told me that I was reported to the Chief Commissioner over here.
12917. By whom?—By Inspector Green, I think, there.
12918. For what?—For being in the premises of a tobacconist there, and accusing me of telling a young woman to run away from his place—this tobacconist’s housekeeper.
12919. Anything else—did he tell you that Inspector Green would recommend your removal from Sydney?—He did not.
12920. Did you expect, in consequence of that complaint, you would be removed?—No. It was only a trumped up charge.
Wednesday, 18 July 1894 (page 6)
Alexander Fitzpatrick who was found guilty of obtaining different small sums of money from Mrs Ryan of the Saracen’s Head Hotel, Bourke Street by means of valueless cheques came up for sentence at the Criminal Court yesterday, before the Chief Justice. Mr Tucker, who appeared for the defence asked that a light sentence should be inflicted. The prisoner was a young, married man. It also appeared that he had been drinking heavily during his stay at the hotel. The prisoner himself also addressed the Court in mitigation of sentence, and stated that when he passed the cheques he thought that he would have funds at the bank to meet them. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
As you can see for yourself, Alexander Fitzpatrick was not highly regarded even in the police force for his disgraceful conduct and penchant for telling lies. We have spoken of Fitzpatrick’s love of the drink, and are now convinced he died from a liver complaint caused by an over indulgence in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Thanks to Mick and Joe from Unmasking the Kelly Gang, Fitzpatrick’s death certificate says it all.